After the holidays, we all start with a little desire to do something different for the year ahead, even if we don't strictly call these changes "resolutions." And maybe the new thing you want to try is cracking open the book of an author with an overwhelming amount of work, which is where the Third Place Books staff steps in to help narrow down your options!
This time, we're grabbing the whip smart Wes out of his office, and asking him to dip into the reservoir of his vast book knowledge to show off all he knows about Lydia Millet!
How did you discover Lydia Millet, and what spoke to you most about her work?
Ghost Lights was the first book of hers I picked up, despite being the second in a tangentially connected cycle of three novels. I knew her name and reputation for years and flirted heavily with the cover of Oh Pure and Radiant Heart but all the Vonnegut comparisons were a turn-off. It wasn't until a New York Times review of Ghost Lights calling it "revelatory-heartbreaking camp" that I took the leap. Say no more - anyone who can translate a milquetoast IRS agent into camp is a friend of mine. I've since become a Lydia Millet acolyte.
What book would you recommend to anyone new to Lydia Millet's work and why?
Millet is so many things: satirist, polemicist, heartbreaker, slapstick comedian, and eerily prolific but I think Mermaids in Paradise is probably the gateway drug that will hook the most readers. A madcap tale of a honeymoon derailed by (really) gnarly mermaids and ecologically blind capitalism, it is a vaudevillian romp with an acid tongue. Like catching Wodehouse doing coke in the environmental studies section.
After their first initiation, are there any deeper cuts you would recommend to a new reader?
So. Many. If you like it quick and dirty, her early novels are beyond dark. Like take-a-shower squicky. How the Dead Dream (the predecessor to Ghost Lights) is a thoughtful, wry work that tenderly examines what might happen if corporate greed developed a conscience but it is extremely meditative and requires a little more patience than some of her other work. And she's massively enjoyable in the short form to boot. Her most recent collection, Fight No More, is fantastic, full of modern life's moral quagmires that will make you squeal and squirm.